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What are the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction?

Gambling addiction is a type of impulse-control disorder where you have little or no control over your urge to gamble, even when you are aware that your actions can hurt yourself and others and even when the odds are against you.

There is often an underlying issue which causes you to start gambling. Examples may include stress caused by problems at work, unresolved issues within a relationship, drug or alcohol addiction, or a form of escapism from bereavement or any difficult emotional period in your life.

At Priory, we understand that acknowledging you have a gambling problem and seeking help can be difficult at first. Whether you have lost a significant amount of money on one bet or over a period of time, your gambling addiction can be rectified no matter how severe your habit.

Our approach to gambling addiction treatment involves psychological support or intervention sessions using evidence-based approaches to initially help to understand the reasons why you have developed a gambling addiction, which can be further explored as part of individual or group therapy sessions at one of our specialist addiction treatment centres.

Feeling a constant urge to gamble even when you are already in a difficult financial situation, or gambling as a way out of financial difficulty are both common symptoms of a gambling addiction. Gambling addiction can also cause problems in relationships and at work, while the cost of funding a gambling addiction can become a huge burden as well as an emotional pressure.

Common symptoms of a gambling addiction

Gambling addiction may be caused by underlying stress linked to a difficult time in your life, whether work, relationship or financially related, as well as having an addictive personality prone to compulsive behaviour.

There are also fundamental emotional reasons which can contribute to the development and vicious cycle of compulsive gambling, including:

  • Overcoming social isolation by visiting betting shops or casinos
  • To feel a rush of adrenaline and dopamine as a ‘happy’ brain chemical release
  • Numb, unpleasant feelings and problems which cannot be easily resolved
  • Boredom and a desire to pass the time
  • Relax and unwind after a stressful day

While these emotional factors may contribute to a gambling addiction, the following may be more visible signs of a gambling problem in either yourself or someone that you care about:

  • A preoccupation with gambling and loss of interest in other aspects of life, such as ignoring family responsibilities and focusing only on the results of gambling
  • Loss of control and being unable to manage impulsive urges to gamble even when the odds are against you
  • Increasing the amount of money used to gamble in order to pay for lost bets or to experience the thrill
  • A negative impact upon relationships with those closest to you. Losing a partner as a result of a gambling addiction is very common due to the strains and burdens that problem gambling places on a relationship
  • Problems within the workplace, which could include an increased workload, absence from work or general lack of concentration which makes it difficult to complete tasks sufficiently
  • Concealing the amount of money and time spent betting from family members. The secrecy that is often involved in problem gambling leads to a lack of trust and often further problems at home
  • Denial that you have a problem with gambling is a great concern as the first step to recovery is accepting that you have a problem

This page was reviewed by Stephanie Chick (FDAP) in July 2018, and is scheduled to be reviewed again in July 2020. To view all Priory gambling addiction specialists, please click here.

How to spot the signs of a problem gambler
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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding gambling addiction treatment and rehabilitation, please call 0800 144 8969 or click here to book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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